ISLAMABAD, (Reuters) – A retired Pakistani general strongly denied yesterday a report that he took $3 million in cash in exchange for helping smuggle nuclear technology to North Korea in the late 1990s, while the nation’s foreign office called the story “preposterous.”
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, had released a copy of a letter from a North Korean official dated 1998 detailing a $3 million payment to Pakistan’s then-chief of army staff, General Jehangir Karamat.
“I was not in the loop for any kind of influence and I would have to be mad to sanction transfer of technology and for Dr Khan to listen to me,” retired general Karamat told Reuters in an email. The story, he said, is “totally false.”
In addition to the payment to Karamat, the letter says Lieutenant-General Zulfiqar Khan, also now retired, was given a half-million dollars and some jewellery. He also denied the accusation. “I have not read the story,” Khan told Reuters, “but of course it is wrong.” The Pakistan Army declined to comment. But Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua told reporters at a weekly press briefing that “such stories have a habit of recurring and my only comment is that this is totally baseless and preposterous.”
Despite Pakistani protests, Western intelligence officials said they believed the letter was authentic, the Post reported. It appears to be signed by North Korean Workers Party Secretary Jon Byong, the newspaper said, and other details match classified information previously unrevealed to the public.
In exchange for the money, generals Karamat and Khan were to help Khan give documents on a nuclear program to North Korea, the Post said.
The newspaper said it was unable to independently verify the account.
Khan has admitted giving centrifuges and drawings that helped North Korea begin making a uranium-based bomb. It already has nuclear weapons made with plutonium.
Former military leader General Pervez Musharraf wrote in his memoir that Pakistan and North Korea were involved in government-to-government cash transfers for North Korean ballistic missile technology in the late 1990s, but he insisted there was no official policy of reverse transfer of nuclear technology to Pyongyang.
“I assured the world that the proliferation was a one-man act and that neither the government of Pakistan nor the army was involved,” Musharraf wrote. “This was the truth, and I could speak forcefully.”